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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Manji for Salutin? Are you serious?

I don't think I can improve on Eugene Forsey's characterization: this is worse than Courtnall for Kordic. (h/t Jymn at Let Freedom Rain).

At a time when the reinvigoration of civil discourse is more important than ever, why in god's name is the Globe jettisoning its most thoughtful, original and engaging columnist? Are focus groups and demographic targeting and tokenism more important to Canada's self-appointed National Newspaper than raising the tone of the national conversation? Sadly, the answer seems to be yes.

In losing Rick Salutin's voice, the Globe isn't just getting rid of a genuinely original and progressive thinker. It's abandoning the whole notion of intellectual curiosity, leaving us with hacks like Blatchford and Wente.

Quality journalism is more important than ever, regardless of how unsustainable the traditional business model may have become. What the Globe's just done is give its readers one less reason to look for it there.

Update: Welcome eyecrazy readers, and thanks for the traffic! Just take your shoes off at the door, if you please ...

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Too much snark, not enough cerebral

Mea culpa. While I'm tossing off cheap shots (well-deserved cheap shots, mind) at Toronto's mayoral candidates, someone else is actually taking the time to craft thoughtful and reflective stuff.

Another quiet, persuasive and on-the-money post from the indispensable Alex Himelfarb. What are we supposed to do when the government is bent on dividing us, on manipulating us, on exploiting our resentment, and on keeping us fearful and ignorant? A taste:
How will any of this make us safer, more prosperous, healthier?  How will any of this help us address the challenges of an aging population, deepening inequality and poverty, climate change and environmental degradation, a widening productivity gap?  Feeding and feeding off anger and distrust is easy but just where does it take us?
Go and read it now.

The lady IS for turning

Thanks for playing, Sarah.

Rocco? That hook, emerging from stage left?

Monday, September 27, 2010

When clichés replace actual thought

Really, Sarah.

The "come on, boys, behave" act is getting tired. And "mad as hell and not going to take it any more" doesn't qualify as thoughtful engagement.

The sad part is that you can do better.  But then, so can we.

Update: And so we have.  Take the hint, Rocco.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Aggressive, hardball progressive politics

What we need more of in this country. Digby's got it exactly right.

For those of you who don't know Congressman Alan Grayson, here's an introduction. He's doing God's work.

(H/t DownWithTyranny.)

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Gun registry: Harper's self-inflicted wound

In Ottawa, Jeffrey Simpson doesn't just channel conventional wisdom – he pretty much personifies it.

So it gives one a nice little frisson of schadenfreude to read something like this with one's morning coffee:
Since the last election, remember, the Conservatives have gone backward: from an 11-point lead over the Liberals in the last national vote to a statistical tie in all the polls. The reasons are many, but the essential thread is clear: The government and the party have done nothing to expand their base of support and, instead, have shrunk back into the core.
What the gun registry vote mostly does, therefore, is strengthen the Conservatives where they are already overwhelmingly strong, and possibly give them a good issue in some NDP and Liberal-held ridings in rural or semi-rural areas. But for every one of those opposition-held ridings where keeping the registry might serve the Conservatives well, there are just as many where their stand is a political liability.
There's a big opening here for all kinds of cheap shots about long guns, compensation, insecurity, phallic symbolism and the gender gap, but it's shaping up to be a nice weekend and, well, you know. Things to do and all that.

Yo, Steve? You want to use the gun thing as a wedge issue? Knock yourself out.

Caveat: as this post from the increasingly indispensible Alison suggests, let's not get too het up about Iggy.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Winning back the words: a subversive's work is never done

Reading this rather revolting story from Dr. Dawg. Our old friends at the Toronto Sun are up to their old tricks, led by the venomous loser Sue-Ann Lyons. Er, Levy. Whatever.

The good Doctor's summary and deconstruction speaks for itself, so no point in going through it all again. What's worth noting is the smirking, self-congratulatory tone permeating the braying, faux-populist tabloid. They're getting all full of themselves because their boy's heading for victory.

That tone's certainly evident in the latest steaming pile from Venomous Loser. But smirking or shrieking, one of the things that's a virtual constant in every hateful little screed she tosses off is her characterization of everything and everyone she hates as "socialist."

Like her fellow hacks, she panders to the lizard-brains by reducing language to clichés and simple-minded notions that appeal to the gut and the emotions rather than the intellect. Central to that is the tactic of throwing words around so carelessly that they lose all connection to their actual meanings, and are transformed into epithets. I've written before about the need to reclaim the discursive turf, so let's add another benchmark to the campaign: "socialism."

Yes, it's a biggie. A loaded word, to be sure. We need to reclaim it and make sure that its meaning is clear and easy to grasp, so that it isn't loaded any more and can't be used as a rhetorical cudgel to shut down debate. Once that's done, the Venomous Loser can stand on top of the Sun building and scream it till she's blue in the face.

To arms, comrades!

Smitherman's toast

Really, when was the last time anyone blew a lead like this (other than Paul Maurice's Leafs, of course?)  I think this sums up George's campaign about as well as anything:

There's a line between between chutzpah and arrogance, and with the suggestion that the anti-Ford vote should coalesce around him, I'd say George has just crossed it.

He started out as the front-runner, without much vision but with plenty of establishment backing and a big-time attitude of entitlement. Then when Rob Ford's message (stupid and simplistic though it is) started becoming the defining storyline of the campaign, he joined Rossi and Thomson trying to out-Ford Rob Ford. Andrea Addario sums it up beautifully:
The credible alternative to Rob Ford is not a candidate that panders to the same parts of the city’s lizard brain. Any campaign that successfully counters Ford’s rage, in both its incoherent and specific forms, needs to reach the progressive, compassionate heart of Toronto – the Toronto that rejected Mike Harris and still rejects Stephen Harper.
Is that George Smitherman? Not looking likely. In his craven bid to appeal to the same destructive anger as Ford, he threw away the opportunity to be that alternative. Smitherman has embraced spending freezes, privatization, and tax cutting. What’s the message here? Look at me! I’m just like Rob Ford! But I live downtown, so I’m somehow less scary? It hasn’t worked.
Time to face it, George: you're toast. You've gone in only one direction since the campaign kicked off, and you've had plenty of time to turn it around, so there's really no reason to think you've got any growth potential. Time to call it a day.

Update: The lady's got the right idea, although if this is true, she's leaning toward the wrong Italian. Take the hint.

Update 2: The lady's not for turning. Even if the car's heading for the cliff ...

Update 3: Globe curmudgeon Marcus Gee is writing as if it's a two-man race now. And George isn't one of them.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Let's just talk about "elitism" for a second

So a lot of the discussion surrounding Rob Ford's popularity, it seems, centres on the slippery and oft-misused notion of “elitism.” How does the storyline go? Angry voters are finding a champion in Ford because of the way he stands up to the downtown elites.

Anybody noticing a common theme here? Yesterday it was "fed up with high taxes and wasteful spending." Today it's ordinary, hard-working lunch-bucket types, tired of being told what do do by the condescending latte-sucking downtown socialist elites. In both cases, Ford's appeal is based on a noxious current of anger and resentment. Rags like the Sun never miss an opportunity to stoke that current by torquing every storyline with resentment of these so-called elites.

I wrote at some length yesterday about how far the discursive goalposts have been moved by thirty years of right-wing stupidity. The touchstone was Ronald Reagan's dismissive putdown during one of his debates with Jimmy Carter. 


It seems like a throwaway line, but it's resonated through public discourse ever since, and we have suffered for it. Consider the context: Carter's making a well-researched argument, listing in concise and easy-to-follow bullet points the policy areas wherein he and Reagan disagree, and Reagan just smiles in his folksy, aw-shucks manner, and in four short words, blows off the argument with a smile. What the hell, eh? Facts and policy don't matter. Who wants to listen to that guy with his facts and figures, anyway? It's the easy-going, genial manner that wins the day. Now there's a guy I can sit and have a beer with. 

And look where we are now. Once upon a time, education, intelligence and the ability to reflect thoughtfully on things were considered desirable things. They were something to aspire to. It's indicative of just how degraded public discourse has become that they're now considered liabilities. Nowadays, it's almost lethal when you can be portrayed as an "elitist." The very term itself has taken on pejorative overtones; to call someone elitist suggests that he or she is arrogant, out of touch, considers himself or herself better than everyone else, and has all kinds of other undesirable qualities.

The corollary, of course, is the inevitable elevation of ordinary and transient social convention to the status of Holy Writ. "Let's go back to the phones: we've got Mike from Canmore, ready to tell us what he thinks about the long-form census." (The Harrisites used to call it "common sense," when what they were really up to was one of the most vicious class wars in nearly a generation. Ontario still hasn't recovered from the damage.) But there are other terms for it as well: populism, gut instinct, and eventually, mob rule. 

Whatever you want to call it, it's all based on common elements: simple easy answers, no thought required, everything boils down to quickly memorized slogans and clichés. With Reagan, there was never any shortage of those: "Evil Empire," "tear down this wall," "government is the problem." Again, it's indicative of just how badly civil discourse has been degraded that today's right-wing flying monkeys can just repeat similar catchphrases ad nauseum and believe that they're making cogent arguments.

The current civic election in Toronto has its share of those idiotic, no-thought-required memes as well: "gravy train," "hard-earned tax dollars," "tax-and-spend leftists," etc. My personal favourite is the so-called "war on the car." News flash, morons: there is no "war on the car." What there is, is a recognition that not everyone drives a car and that any sane and workable transportation policy has to account for the fact that different people have different ways of getting around. Yes, it's an idea with a lot more syllables than “war on the car.” Get used to it.

As a matter of fact, it really doesn't take much to break down these clichés; once that's done, it becomes pretty clear that the assumption and value judgments they're based on don't stand up. "Tax-and-spend," for instance. I wrote yesterday about taxes, but once again: Societies raise revenue, collectively, by requiring their citizens to pay taxes. They then allocate their collective resources in accordance with publicly determined priorities. In other words, they spend the money. "Tax" and "spend." When did this become a Bad Thing?

Again, an illustration of how important it is for progressives to win back the discourse. If we fight on the other side's terms, we're screwed.

So, back to those idiotic truisms. It's time to reclaim the notion of elitism as well. When we're talking about multi-million-dollar decisions that affect the future of my city and my community, I want those decisions made on the basis of comprehensive analysis, careful consideration, genuine attempts to build consensus, and a well-thought-out rationale that considers:
  • what the objectives are
  • what resources are available to pursue them
  • what the opportunity costs of those pursuits are
  • the target population
  • what the indicators of success / failure are.
In short, I want those decisions made by intelligent, thoughtful, educated people. I don't want them made on the basis of some stupid angry asshole's gut reactions. If that makes me an elitist, fine. Sue me.

Let us conclude with this:

Further examples here, here, here, and here.

Angry, overbearing, belligerent, name-calling, and screaming. Lying about his boorish, drunken antics. Simple-minded proposals that have no basis in fiscal or mathematical reality. No grounding in which level of government does what. No ability or inclination to connect with people who disagree with him. Pulling answers and numbers out of his ass. These are not civic virtues, folks.

So, my suburban friends: how badly do you want to cut off your noses to spite your faces? Never mind buying into the questionable premise that the city is broken and he's the one who's going to fix it. Do you really think this guy's going to make things better? Do you really want to put this guy in the mayor's chair just to stick it to downtown voters?

I'm sorry, you were saying something about privacy?

That was part of the rationale for the Harperites' assault on the census, wasn't it?

For your consideration: Sean Bruyea. A vocal critic of Veterans Affairs whose personal medical and financial records seem to have been xeroxed and used for paper airplanes by hundreds of bureaucrats and used to brief former minister Greg Thompson. Details of his pension, his mental condition, his chronic fatigue, his tension headaches, even suicidal thoughts, all collected as a weapon to be used against him.

One expert in privacy law called it the worst breach of privacy he'd ever seen.

This is what happens to critics of this government.

This is what this gang of thugs will stoop to.

I'm sorry, were they saying something about the long-form census being intrusive?

(H/t Susan Delacourt.)

Update: Chet has more.

Upperdate:  As does pogge.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Can we stop talking about taxpayers?

I know, I know. It's not going to be easy to push back against 30 years of right-wing stupidity. And I think I recall someone saying, once upon a time, that an election campaign is no time for a discussion of serious issues.

But we're coming down to the home stretch of the Toronto civic election, and Rob Ford's still the odds-on favourite. Don't know whether it's too late to keep this particular bus from going off the cliff, but either way, there's a lot of damage to undo, and it's not going to get undone unless we start the pushback.

I've written in some detail about why Ford's message seems to be resonating with so many voters. Nothing's changed in that regard: both he and they are idiots (h/t thwap). But let's look a little more deeply at the essence of his message: spending is out of control, the city is falling apart, and people are sick and tired of their taxes going to waste.

Breaking down a message like that isn't easy, because it sounds so simple. The simplicity, however, is deceptive, because it's based on a number of assumptions that just don't stand up once you look past the ideological and discursive constraints. So, let's begin with the most basic and easily digested component of that message: the whole notion of "taxpayers' money."

First off, let's stop calling it that. As Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, taxes are what buy us civilization. We get to have roads, public health departments, electricity, clean water, hockey rinks, fire departments and schools because we pay taxes. They are the mechanism whereby the citizens of any society pool their resources to accomplish things they can't do on their own. They are the means whereby we act for the common good. They are part of the fabric that holds communities together. It gets more than a little tiresome hearing people bitching about them.

That's part one. Part two: it's not Your Money, Mr. and Ms. Pissed-Off Taxpayer. It is the price you pay for living in a civilized society instead of a state of savagery. It is a collectively owned resource, to be used in the pursuit of the public good and in accordance with publicly determined priorities. You get to participate in that determination through your inherent right to participate in the public decision-making process: by voting, by talking to your elected representatives, by exercising your rights of free speech and free assembly, and by having conversations with your fellow citizens. And once that determination is made, you live with it. You don't get to take your ball and go home just because you didn't get what you wanted.

Thirdly, it's time we stopped talking about ourselves as "taxpayers." That kind of discourse is based on a very limited and restrictive view of our relationships to our community, to our government, and to one another. When you reduce your view of those relationships to just "me" versus "the government that takes my hard-earned money," you're setting yourself up for nothing but anger and resentment – the very things that Ford's tapping into. Take those away and he's really got nothing else.

That's the way public discourse has been drifting for at least 30 years, ever since our southern brethren decided to send a second-rate Hollywood has-been to Washington. And setting out the resultant damage could be the work of an entire career, never mind a blog post. But perhaps the worst aspect of that damage has been the vandalism done to language and public discourse; if words and ideas are degraded and stripped of their meanings, we can't even have productive conversations any more. If all we can do is throw around tired clichés and discredited tropes, then there goes any hope for meaningful and effective communication – the first step in fixing things.

Therefore, a challenge to both fellow progressives and anyone else: let us, henceforth, resolve to stop talking about "taxpayers" or "shareholders" or "consumers," and instead embrace and revitalize the notion of "citizenship."

Yes, citizenship. A privilege, a badge of honour, an indicator that you're something more than an apathetic disengaged dullard. Citizenship carries rights, but it also carries obligations to your community and to your fellow citizens. In return for the rights conferred by citizenship, you assume certain responsibilities – critical thought and active civic engagement most of all.

It means thinking beyond clichés.

It means recognizing that there's an entity out there larger than yourself.

It means resisting the atomizing influence of corporations and manufactured narratives that seek to distract us from genuine issues and turn us against one another.

And it means participating in the civic life of your community.

This goes beyond labels like "right" or "left" or "conservative" or "liberal" or "socialist." Citizenship is a proud and honourable idea, organically developed through centuries of patience, care, learning, and preservation of intellectual and moral traditions. And it's been disfigured almost beyond recognition by decades of misdirection, lies, and bullshit. It's time to reclaim it.

(Tomorrow: that "elitist" thing.)

Another Sun reader speaks

Res ipsa loquitur.

Link here. Isn't it inspiring, the way Rob Ford brings out the best in people?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Little Eichmann of the Day

I'm proposing a new feature for the progressive Canadian blogosphere: Little Eichmann of the Day, awarded to the functionary / cog in the apparatus of repression whose actions best combine bureaucratic compliance with an utter lack of any moral sense.

Just to be clear: you don't need to be wearing swastikas, goose-stepping, or perpetrating genocide to exhibit these qualities, and I'm not saying these people are Nazis.

Today's nominee: the B.C. Attorney-General's Office.

Alison has posted this horrifying story about Betty Krawczyk at the Galloping Beaver and at Creekside; I urge you to read it. She is a grandmother in her 80s. While she has never harmed another human being, nor has she even damaged a single piece of logging or construction equipment, she has been hit with eight jail sentences. Now the Crown wants to argue that she suffers from a personality disorder or mental illness and use that as an excuse to lock her up for the rest of her life.

The money passage (link here): 
Her real crime in the eyes of the courts is that she challenges the legitimacy of the judicial system to criminalize dissent, to punish protesting:
"I won’t do community service should that be part of my sentence. I have done community service all of my life and I have done it for love. I refuse to have community service imposed on me as a punishment. And I won’t pay a fine or allow anyone else to pay a fine for me. I won’t accept any part of electronic monitoring as I would consider that an enforced internalization of a guilt I don’t feel and don’t accept and I refuse to internalize this court’s opinion of me by policing myself."
Back to jail for Betty K.
After serving out her last sentence in full, Betty appealed it on the grounds that the squelching of protest inconvenient to corporations and governments is an illegitimate use of the legal system.
The Attorney General's response to her appeal has been to recommend the court re-sentence her under the rules of "accumulated convictions", designate her a chronic offender, and lock her up for life!
I'm sure Michael Brundrett is just following orders.

Update: Cliff at Rusty Idols has beaten me to it, as has Chet Scoville, but yes, it's the old Soviet model: redefine dissent and opposition to the State as a form of mental illness and then you can incarcerate people indefinitely. For their own good, of course. 

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Where we're headed, if we're not careful

A sobering snapshot of an America in decline from a blogger I've been following.

What a delightful bit of serendipity. Just a short time ago I was writing about the damage resulting from thirty years of right-wing bullshit, and along comes DownWithTyranny, laying this at Ronald Reagan's doorstep. Simplistic, get-something-for-nothing nostrums wrapped in soothing images and syrupy clichés, all calculated to appeal to frightened, insecure and confused people who don't want to deal with reality and its messy complications.

In other words, simple-minded pablum aimed at children. That's pretty well all the right-wing howler monkeys have to offer. False narratives that appeal to emotion and gut reaction rather than straightforward analysis. Hazy references to mythically simpler and more prosperous times, coupled with implicit or even overt scapegoating of some sinister Other – immigrants, feminists, environmentalists, organized labour, or whoever happens to be a convenient target.

Once again: this is not conservatism. Conservatism is a noble, principled and time-honoured philosophical tradition. This is simple-minded atavistic bullshit.

Of course, no one up here is working from that playbook ...

Margaret Atwood schools the Sun hacks

Once again, she shows why she's a national treasure.

Clear, straightforward and witty. Bet it'll go right over the heads of most Sun readers, though. Nuance, shades of meaning and facts that depart from the narrative the rag feeds them aren't something they're used to.

In fact, that goes for pretty well anything that requires actual thought. It's a paper written by morons for morons. They'd have trouble debating Margaret's turnip, and then they'd start shrieking about what a condescending elitist root vegetable it was. It lives in the Annex, for chrissakes.

Update: Linky dinky ... 

Saturday, September 18, 2010

This is what integrity looks like

It's really not that complicated. Bet she wouldn't have to wait for someone to threaten legal action, either.

Taking notes, Ezra? We can repeat this for you later if you're in shul ...

Sorry to be a buzz kill

But there are worse people in Canada than Ezra Levant.

No, really.

The foot-soldiers of the corporate/state security apparatus have, once again, put their jackboots to one of the prisoners of conscience in the wake of the G20 clusterfuck. Alex Hundert, arrested last night by seven cops, stands accused of violating his bail conditions for participating in a panel discussion.

At a university.

Yep. That's how badly free speech in this country is threatened now.

Using a combination of pre-emptive night-time raids, ridiculously restrictive bail conditions, and of course good old police brutality, the corporate errand boys are slowly but surely criminalizing dissent and intimidating citizens into staying home and keeping their mouths shut.

Yeah, well. Not gonna work, little Eichmanns. Fuck you and the horses you rode us down with.

Update: A little more required reading from the best mayor Toronto's had in the last half-century.

A little kosher wine with that crow, Ezra?

I hear it's a tough bird. Probably trayfe, too.

Oh, I'm sorry, it's Yom Kippur. You'll have to wait till this evening. Maybe you can give some thought to, oh, I dunno .... atoning for your sins today while you're davening?


H/t Alheli Picazo, who did a masterful job of deconstructing and debunking Levant's revolting smear job on Soros. She also gets the prize for this:

Alheli? Promise me you'll take pictures.

Update: This ain't no mere karmic pile-on. What we've got here is a schadenfreude mosh pit. Linky dinky dinky dinky doo ...

Friday, September 17, 2010

#VoteTO: The prospect of Mayor Rob Ford, and the long road back to sanity

Via Chet Scoville at The Vanity Press, a piece by Edward Keenan in The Eye Weekly about what happens when Rob Ford becomes mayor.

Not going to try and replicate the whole thing here. Chet's underlined some of the more important points, notably the flimsy and questionable assumptions upon which the whole "wasteful spending, city falling apart, taxpayer rage, yargle bargle bleghhh ... " narrative rests.

But there's something else about the piece that's even more disturbing, and it dovetails – again – with my continuing obsession with the celebration of stupidity. As Keenan argues, it's a mistake to see Ford as some scheming Machiavellian with a hidden agenda. The simple truth is, and I think Keenan's onto something here, that Ford has no coherent agenda at all. He is not going to find hundreds of millions of dollars in savings by cutting out catered lunches for councillors, replacing streetcars with more buses, or firing the guy who waters the plants at City Hall.

And whether you agreed with David Miller or not, the record shows that he managed to herd the cats – er, work with councillors to get things done.  Even (God forgive me) Mayor Mel showed some proficiency that way. If Rob Ford's ever been able to work and play well with the other kids, I haven't seen it.

No, the most unsettling thing about Ford's ascendancy – and Keenan touches upon it – is the continuing buzz about his "authenticity." I've written before about how none of the lies, drunken rants, belligerent public misbehaviour or gaffes seem to stick to him, but instead underline his "regular guy" cred. He really does believe that bicycles shouldn't be on the road. And when he talks about servicing his constituents and cutting waste, he's not posturing or triangulating – he's being genuine. In Keenan's own words:
Except when childishly denying personal-life indiscretions or poorly thought-out comments, he speaks his simple truth as plainly as he can. In short, he is incapable of spin and his branding — such as it is — of himself as a plain-spoken, unapologetic truth teller is an honest representation.
And that's the biggest problem. Not that Rossi and Smitherman and Thomson are trying to skim some of his support by trying to reposition themselves as smarter versions of Rob Ford. Not that Ford's vision, warped though it is, seems to have become the defining lens through which this election is viewed. No, if what Keenan's arguing is true, then the key to Ford's appeal is that he's genuinely sincere in what he's saying.

To which, in my snobby condescending downtown elitist way, I say: So what? What's so great about being sincerely stupid?

What's so great about a worldview that has no capacity for reflection? What's so great about reducing the complexities of politics and municipal governance to a series of sound bites and simplistic clichés? What's the benefit of using words to inflame and obscure? What's admirable about trumpeting your shallowness, your ignorance, and your lack of education?

Once again, it comes down to citizenship and its attendant obligations. Thoughtful civic engagement shouldn't be optional, regardless of what level of government you're talking about. I want policy decisions made on the basis of sound analysis and a thorough consideration of goals, resources and targets, not on the basis of some asshole's gut reaction. And Rob Ford's popularity is all about simplistic gut reaction.

His ascendancy represents the triumph of intellectual laziness and disengagement, of gullibility and an obliviousness to being played for suckers, and of a willingness to swallow bullshit whose flimsy transparency ought to be self-evident to anyone with more than a few brain cells. The prospect of his victory holds out little more than four years of stagnation. And that's four years lost that could be spent building a healthier and more functional city.

Sorry, but if you're basing your voting decision on a simple visceral desire to kick ass instead of a thoughtful and reasoned consideration of the issues, then you are a fucking moron. Stupidity is not a civic virtue. There's nothing to be gained by pretending otherwise. If you find that offensive, too bad. (H/t thwap, again.)

This is the damage done by 30 years of right-wing nonsense. And let's not kid ourselves, my friends. This isn't conservatism. This is destructive atavistic bullshit.

Best geek porn of the week

From the inimitable Sex, Bombs and Burgers.

The iArm frees up one hand for, um ... stirring pasta! Yeah, that's it.

Alex Himelfarb nails it again. If you read nothing else all day ...

... do not – do not – miss this post from Alex Himelfarb. The money graf:
When we fear government more than the consequences of unregulated greed or unmitigated poverty or the tragedy of the commons, we know that the trap has been sprung.
Go and read it now.

You'd think they'd know this

... but apparently, people with lots of money have ways of getting back at people who publish repulsive smears about them.

OK, be honest with me. Am I overdoing it with the schadenfreude?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

A Sun reader speaks

Res ipsa loquitur. Link here, but god knows whether it'll be there for long, hence the screen cap.

I'm glad the NRA's meddling in our politics. Guys like this should be able to pack heat if they want to.

Supporting the troops, my ass

Quick shot this morning (h/t pogge):

So Peter MacKay's paused his droopy-dog-photo-op shtick long enough to accuse Iggy of undermining morale by asking questions about the F-35 boondoggle. (God, I hate that word, but in this case ... )

Two words: Pat Stogran.

Shut up, Droopy.

Where's my flight suit? 

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Hey! Kory! Come back here!

You can't go yet. We're not done with you.

But seriously, though ... several bloggers have joined in the karmic pile-on already, so I'll forbear for now. But I can't help noting how consistently some of the biggest names at Sun Media have been stepping in pile after pile of their own shit recently.

There's Kory and his Snuffelupagus-impersonating "source." And there's David Akin and his spotty grasp of history. In fairness, David deserves credit for having owned up and fixed his "embarrassing mistake," but it does say something about Sun Media that it stayed online for a week without anyone else noticing or doing anything about it. Even with some mean-spirited bastard pointing it out repeatedly. (Really, David? "Twit?" That hurts.)

However, David's mea culpa slags BigCityLib, who flagged the error before I did, for indulging in a "cheap gotcha." Dear me, I'm clutching my pearls and looking around for the fainting couch. Heaven forfend that Sun Media would ever stoop to "cheap gotchas."

Yes, that's another cheap shot, but if Sun Media's going to cut across the blue line with its head down, it's going to have to expect to get lined up.

But while we're on the subject of Sun Media, let's revisit the Ian Davey controversy for a minute. We've all read about it, so no need to rehash, but as Dr. Dawg has argued, Davey really wasn't so far off the mark if he was suggesting that Sun Media puts out papers for morons. As the good Doctor writes:
The Sun specializes in vulgar, uninformed comment intended to inflame prejudice and damp down reflection. And there's a constituency for that. Davey didn't express himself well, but that's precisely what he was getting at, and--let me go out on a limb here--it's what a lot of us believe, even if we sometimes forbear to say it out loud.
Dawg's already made the argument better than I can, and I'd urge you to go read it in full, but it ties into what I've been saying about the deliberate cultivation of ignorance and stupidity. And I guess the deeper I get into this argument, the harder I'm finding it to disagree with thwap about the utility of calling people on their stupidity.

Citizenship and civic engagement go hand in hand. You're not fulfilling your obligations as a citizen if you can't be bothered to think critically. That means looking at things through something more thoughtful and challenging than a smudgy lens of right-wing clichés (h/t Dawg again). And if you're too lazy and / or stupid to try, well, you might get some momentary satisfaction out of being pandered to by the Suns and Rob Fords of the world. But you've forfeited any right to be taken seriously or treated with respect.

So I'm a snooty condescending elitist? Sue me.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Could someone please change Ezra's diaper?

Honestly, he's starting to smell. Dear Lord, who told this little pisher that kacking into cyberspace is the same thing as a contribution to intellectual discourse?  ("Hey, look at me, I'm a Stockaholic!  Look at me! Look at me!")

Another smear job, another steaming pile of crap, lies and hysterical accusations. And for kicks, he ties Margaret Atwood to Al-Jazeera with a lurid story about some dirty Muslim terrorist who smashed a 4-year-old kid's head with a rock. Just in case it isn't clear that this is a Clash of CivilizationsTM, and the brown folks with the funny names are eeeeeevul.

But that's just setting the table. The main point, it seems, is to carry on with the lies, the anguished posturing as aggrieved victim, and whine about censorship and suppression. Margaret Atwood is demanding that Sun TV be banned, he says.

Of course, there's no evidence for that, and of course, that's not what she said. And again, he's displaying a fundamental misunderstanding of both freedom of expression and censorship. But then that's par for the course, isn't it. The rest of the piece is just more of the same: left-wing mainstream media consensus, the only opinions allowed on TV are anti-American, anti-Christian big-government mush, yargle bargle blegh, drool.


He's like a kid who never mastered toilet training, craps his pants regularly and then demands that someone change him. I suppose we can't hold him responsible for someone else's bad parenting, but he can't have it both ways by demanding to be treated like an adult either.

Update: Tip of the yarmulka to Sabina and thwap.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Dear, oh dear, oh dear

Screen cap from Saturday September 11, 5:16 p.m. ET.

Well, now.

That would be at least four days that no one's bothered to correct David Akin's paragraph confusing Joe Clark with Robert Stanfield. As even a cursory internet search reveals, it was Mr. Stanfield whose Progressive Conservatives lost the 1974 federal election to Pierre Trudeau's Liberals. Joe Clark's first federal campaign as Tory Leader was in 1979.

Yes, that would be the National Bureau Chief for Sun Media.  The point man, one would think, in ensuring the credibility of Fox Noise North's political coverage.

Yeah, well.  Who cares about facts, accuracy and history anyway?

(H/t BigCityLib.)

Update: Link here. Five days.

Update: Six days. Anyone up for a pool?

Friday, September 10, 2010

G20 asshole cops = schoolyard bullies

From this week's Now magazine:

Don't know if the URL will stay linked to Lacy's letter, so I'm including a screen cap.

Once again, asshole cops pushing people around, brutally abusing them and stealing their personal property, and not even a hint of accountability. When normal people do this, it's called assault, robbery or stealing. When cops do it, well, the rules are different. Anyone still hoping for a meaningful institutional response?

Can someone please explain the difference between these sadistic pigs and the average gang of schoolyard bullies shaking down smaller kids for their lunch money or valuables?  Because I really want to know.

Not much point in looking for anything from any particular level of government, but there is video of Lacy's arrest, and it should be possible to identify the lying, sadistic scumbags who grabbed her. Either way, how about a lawsuit in small claims court, identifying the police services board, the Toronto police, and perhaps the Integrated Security Unit, just for laughs?

Update: a video from Lacy identifying the cowardly, sadistic, tiny-dick piece of shit* hiding behind a badge. You have to love these guys. Can't keep a few dickheads from breaking windows, but they're pretty good at beating the shit out of slightly built women.

Update 2: When the facts come out, *this label's gonna stick. (H/t pogge.)

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

About that free speech thing

Deep sigh.

Again with the cultivated ignorance from the flying monkeys of the Right. One of the things you constantly hear them whining about, when they're complaining about the leftwing socialist libtard media, is about how the liberal media suppress freedom of speech because they won't publish "politically incorrect" viewpoints.

Should I make the type larger here? Would that be the written equivalent of speaking slowly and using short words? 

How often do we have to go back to first principles with this crowd? I'll go through it once more:

Freedom of speech means you get to say whatever you want, no matter how repulsive. Nothing complicated about that.

It does not mean anyone else has a duty to listen to you.

It does not impose a corresponding obligation on anyone else to provide you with an audience.

It does not mean anyone else has to provide you with a forum.

It does not mean that you have the right to be taken seriously.

It does not mean that, having spoken your piece, you are somehow immune from criticism.

It means that you can say whatever you want, but if you:
then other people are going to call you out.

OK? Knock yourself out, Ezra. And you, my brave Fighting Keyboarders, back to your posts.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

About those shiny flying probes ...

Speaking of big shiny flying metallic probing objects (h/t deBeauxOs) ...

Air-show flyboys rattling the rafters yesterday with their displays of testosterone-sodden militarism. Just like Gaza or Beirut, perhaps, except without the explosions and hundreds of deaths. I've always loved their sensitive and nuanced community outreach, too; yeah, we know it's louder than hell and causes permanent hearing damage, but it brings in the tourist dollars, so fuck you.

Is it unseemly to watch, on the off chance that one of the silly bastards might crash?

Noteworthy, though, is how they cancelled it the day before. Was it too cloudy? Were they afraid it might rain? Dear lord, if they can't stand up to a little rain, how will they stand up to al-Qaeda? How much did they say they're spending on the F-35 again?

Best part, though, is this little item about increased military cooperation between Russia and Israel. Heh. Does this mean Israeli jets will be providing fighter escort next time Russian bombers attempt to violate our pristine northern sovereignty? I'd pay to watch Dmitri spin that one ... 

Saturday, September 4, 2010

RCMP meltdown: Saturday morning schadenfreude

I know, I know. Taking pleasure in the misfortunes of others is so unseemly, but honestly, this couldn't happen to a nicer bunch of guys.


Just goes to show you

The most telling paragraph from Avaaz.org's response to the attempt to spam its petition:
It's deeply disturbing that in all Avaaz's years of campaigns against US President George Bush, Burmese, Zimbabwean and Sudanese dictators, irresponsible multinational corporations and corrupt politicians, no one has ever yet stooped to this kind of tactic to undermine our members' right to express their views. 
Yep. Of all the nasties Avaaz has taken on, only Fox News North's supporters have gotten this dirty and desperate.

Update: Susan Delacourt puts the whole mess in perspective here. If she's right, then not only did Kory Teneycke know someone was adding the names of real people (Kady O'Malley, Paul Wells, Stephen Wicary, Andrew Coyne) to the Avaaz petition without their knowledge – he wrote his piece slamming Margaret Atwood citing the fact that there were fake names on the petition in order to undermine it. And this guy's going to tell us we need a right-wing Fox Noise machine because the "lamestream media" lack journalistic credibility?

Friday, September 3, 2010

And did you *check* that source, Kory?

I'm guessing not. But didn't stop him from writing a whole column based on it, now, did it.

(Update: Kady's on the trail now. Probably not the only one, either. More here, here, here, and here. Be interesting to see what comes of this ... )

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Censorship? You keep using that word ...

The online petition to keep Fox News North from infecting our national discourse is striking a nerve. Predictably, the flying monkeys of the right are whining about "censorship."

Here we go again. One of the most predictable things about the radical right is the incessant obsession with stripping words of their meanings. In their through-the-looking-glass world, words can mean anything. They can be stripped of their connotations and used with no regard for context, for history or even coherence. Case in point: among our southern friends, the disciples of Karl Rove have been so successful in turning the word "liberal" into an epithet that the entire national conversation has been hijacked. (Tip of the hat to my pal Sabina for the first link; I have a little trouble believing that the second one is genuine because the spelling and grammar are almost perfect.)

This is why it's more important than ever to ensure that terms don't get redefined. I've written previously about the need to maintain control over narratives, but it's even more fundamental to make sure that when we use terms like "freedom of speech," "civil liberties" and "censorship," we're not allowing our opponents to impose their own instrumental meanings. If we're not vigilant about that, we've lost the debate before it even begins.

So, back to first principles. Let's talk about censorship for a minute. Censorship is defined by Wikipedia as "the suppression of speech or other communication which may be considered objectionable, harmful, sensitive, or inconvenient to the general body of people as determined by a government, media outlet, or other controlling body."

With great respect to my conservative friends, nobody's arguing that Sun Media and Kory Teneycke shouldn't be allowed to set up their so-called "populist" news channel, even if the premise upon which they're basing it is contrived bullshit. What I object to is the idea of the PMO strong-arming the CRTC into making sure it gets a Category 1 licence, which would require cable carriers to include it as part of their basic TV packages. Ensuring that regulatory bodies maintain an impartial arms-length separation from the government of the day and enabling them to withstand transitory political pressure is not censorship, dear friends.

It's indicative of how debased public conversation can become, however, that principled devotion to the idea of an impartial public service can be smeared with inflammatory labels like censorship. Let's be clear: "censorship" is every bit as loaded a term as "racism." Accusations of censorship or hate speech are rhetorical and emotional cudgels which have the effect of shutting down debate. And by extension, claiming that someone else is accusing of you such things allows you to claim victim status. Either way, you've moved the debate away from issues of principle and policy and reframed it in far more volatile and easily manipulated emotional terms.

Margaret Atwood's entry into the discussion has prompted exactly this sort of response. Sun Media's Ottawa bureau chief has accused her of backing an anti-free-speech movement.

Over at Let Freedom Rain, Jymn Parrett writes about the weird entitlement thing right-wingers have when it comes to the media.  They really believe that the media have an obligation to parrot their own sense of grievance and outrage, he argues, and it drives them bonkers when that doesn't happen. As he puts it:
Sharron Angle so perfectly encapsulated this entitlement syndrome when she famously told a newsperson that she thinks the role of the media is to reflect her positions as she recites them. Palin and Dr. Laura also have publicly expressed this idea, confusing their rights with that of the first amendment.
Note to conservatives - the media is not here to read your minds and print your thoughts. You've been spoiled for too long listening to dittoheads on the radio waves and the dunderheads at Fox News. We are not all Murdoch. And that royally pisses off the right.
It seems intuitively obvious, but when you're dealing with people who view the world through a warped ideological lens, nothing is obvious. People like Sarah Palin, Michael Savage and Laura Schlessinger have been quick to claim the mantle of victimhood and cry censorship when people call them on their hatred and stupidity, but it needs to be emphasized, and repeated as often as necessary: disagreeing with someone and holding her accountable for her irresponsible and hateful rhetoric is not censorship. Freedom of speech doesn't mean you're immune from criticism. Words have consequences.

In Politics and the English Language (1946), George Orwell argued that
... one ought to recognize that the present political chaos is connected with the decay of language, and that one can probably bring about some improvement by starting at the verbal end. If you simplify your English, you are freed from the worst follies of orthodoxy. You cannot speak any of the necessary dialects, and when you make a stupid remark its stupidity will be obvious, even to yourself.
Once again, vigilance is key. If we allow them to define the words, we're letting them frame the issues and define the terms of the debate. We can't let them do that.